The Cultural Side of Bali

Hello everyone!

Sorry for the extremely long hiatus. In between applying for university, organizing a huge event, organizing a travel itinerary for a school trip, meetings, and working out… you could say blogging has gone down to somewhere near the bottom of my priority list right now. But being busy just makes me miss traveling more and missing traveling makes me miss blogging about traveling. So here I am, back in front of my laptop, reminiscing to my good old vacation days.

Over the past couple of posts, I’ve shown you the more natural side of Bali as well as the awesome food there. However, the most important aspect about Bali that sets it apart from any other islands or beach-side escapes is its culture. Bali doesn’t simply become a shallow island paradise with expensive hotels and night clubs lining the beach, but its people maintain their core values and lifestyle traditions and they boast it. That – I believe – is what truly makes Bali special.

So, one day in Bali, my dad went on a fishing trip to the sea leaving us (the ladies) to do whatever we want for the day. And so we went to Ubud, the touristy center of Bali’s cultural boasting.

First stop was CV Catur Eka Budhi to watch their take on Barong & Kris Dance.

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The dance isn’t just a dance, but its a play depicted using dance. The story is about the battle between good and evil, with Rangda representing the evil in this world which takes up many forms and can easily turn the characters into something they’re not. Rangda made Dewi Kunti banish her daughter, Sadewa to the forest.

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And so, Sadewa was tied up in the forest, right in front of Rangda’s palace. However, unknown to Rangda, Shiva appeared and gave immortality to Sadewa.

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Rangda tried and tried to kill Sadewa but nothing worked for him. So he surrendered and and begged Sadewa to send him to heaven. And Sadewa did just that, angering one of Rangda’s followers named Kalika. Kalika was able to transform to a pig, a bird, and then to the form of Rangda.

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Sadewa transformed into a Barong and she and Kalika never stopped fighting – thus, it turned into a battle between good and evil.

I’ve seen another Barong & Kris Dance a while back and I must say, this one was a really exciting take on the play. It wasn’t too serious and it wasn’t boring. The cast did a great job interacting with the audience and providing comic relief throughout the whole thing. However, since the entire play was performed in Balinese and there was no narrator in English, no one really understood what was happening and we were sort of guessing which part was it that was staged. Also, the backstage area could use more coverage since it gave away a little bit of what was going to happen.

Afterwards, we went to Bali Bidadari Batik, trying to get a good batik to take home.

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They can add a batik print of any pattern you want to your plain shirt or you can buy a shirt there and have them paint it for you.

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There was also a batik and tenun-making demo at the hall they have in front of the shop. Inside the shop, you can try a sarong for free and see how it looks on you. The collection at this store was awesome. I had my eyes on a couple of sundresses they’ve got, but unfortunately they were so darn expensive. All the pricing was in USD, thus making it so much more expensive for locals who want to get a batik.

So we got out empty-handed and continued to Yan-Yan Silver.

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(These delicately shaped crosses are so freakin’ beautiful and I would have bought them. Too bad they weren’t available for sale yet.)

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Just like any other silver shops in Bali, you’ll find a silver-making presentation at the front of the shop. The shop is rather narrow and you have to sidle your way through the shoppers sometimes but it has quite an expansive gallery. The silver’s not too expensive but nothing catches my eye except for a leather bracelet with silver charms – which I guarantee I’ll lose.

The shopkeeper was a bit… aggressive in promoting her stuff. She sort of threatened us that “you will not find anything cheaper. Other shops will double the price,” raising her voice with each word. That just made me feel more turned off about the shop and so we walked out empty handed once more.

So we got to Ubud, parked the car somewhere and walked around the area, stopping at several places.

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First walking stop was Saraswati Temple which was located in the middle of a lotus pond. Needless to say, it was a really great place.

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We only stopped to take photos here, but if you wish to dine here, there’s a cafe (Lotus Cafe is I’m not mistaken) right by the lotus pond. The temple has a big stage in front of it which hold dance performances sometimes as well.

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While we were walking past the village temple, there was a huge crowd of tourists gathering outside the temple with DSLRs pointed at the courtyard of the temple. It turned out that there was a sabung ayam or a chicken fight inside. Basically, the men who own fighting chickens would put their chickens head to head on a battle to the death here.

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You won’t believe the amount of tourists this simple ceremony generated.

It turned out that it was the village temple’s anniversary and they celebrated it this way. The men was battling with chickens and the women were preparing this gigantic offering, weaving coconut leaves and all.

We walked some more towards Puri Ubud or Ubud Palace.

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The palace was home to Bali’s royal family and to this day, it remains to be the residence of royal family descendants. Thus, only some areas of the palace is available for tourists, others are closed off from the public eye.

This was the first time that I actually took an entire day from my trip to Bali just to experience its culture and I must say, it just makes me realize why no matter how many times I visit Bali, I keep coming back for more. Bali is not just another island paradise, but one with identity. Its popularity lies in its ability to maintain its culture instead of turning into a wholly touristy, commercialized spot without keeping tourists away. Bali exposes its culture and boasts it, but none of its people would ever compromise their traditions and respect towards to nature and their gods  just to keep the number of tourists up.

What I found that day in Bali was balance – a balance between old and new, traditional and modern, slow and fast. Southern Bali is fast-paced and packed with modern developments, but head away from that you’ll find the true Bali, not the superficial one. It’s a reminder that in life, such balance is needed too. Our lives can’t be not superficial at some way. We can’t get away from “the fancy life”, but that doesn’t mean we have to forget our core, our main values that makes us who we are because if it weren’t for those values, what are we but an empty shell? We should never compromise what we believe in just to generate more numbers in our lives.

It took me a day in Ubud to realize that. I hope it won’t take you that much time.


You can read about these destinations, get an offline map of them, and learn more about Bali in my Bali for the Family Guidebook App available at Apple App Store.

Bali for the Family

Application created in collaboration with Favoroute. You can learn more about the app here.

Favoroute

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